Chrissie Hynde On How She Safeguarded Pretenders' Signature Sound

Frontwoman Chrissie Hynde might be the longest tenured member of the Pretenders, but she says the legacy of the band's original lineup has never been watered down.

The Pretenders are about to release their 12th studio album, Relentless, this week (September 15), and Hynde says the LP contains all the creative juice that made classics of their first few records. Speaking to Q104.3 New York's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke, Hynde complimented longtime guitarist James Walbourne for his devotion to the band's classic sound.

"That's what it's about is riffs," Hynde tells the show. "And yeah, [James Walbourne] is a real riff master, and so was James Honeyman-Scott — Jimmy Scott — my original guitar player. All the guitar players I've had since Jimmy [Scott] died have not only been paying tribute to him, but were inspired by him."

For her part, Hynde says her vocals and lyrics still come from the same, personal space as they did when she started writing songs.

"I'm not really a storyteller," she adds. "I don't make songs up; they usually are autobiographical. I hate staying that and I don't like talking about them, but I can only cull from my own experience. I don't make up a scenario... unless I've actually done that."

Elsewhere in the conversation, Hynde reflected on how she's drifted in and out of touch with what's current in rock and popular music. Due to the chaotic nature of a life of touring, Hynde says it can be hard to keep up with anything going out beyond that evening's gig.

"With ZZ Top, I hadn't paid that much attention ... because when they were on MTV, I was already on the road," Hynde says. "Then we did a tour with ZZ Top, and I said, 'I better go check these guys out.' And I went out to the sound desk, smoked a joint and I went out every single night on that tour and watched them. I was just blown away. I mean, first of all, what a great band, and Billy Gibbons is such a great singer. ... I think I was waylaid by MTV, where I saw the girls and the hot rods, and I just didn't pay much attention, because the format of how we got music changed. Once it was on MTV, I lost interest because the visuals distract me... I'm a radio person. Radio, to me, is where it's at, or certainly where I'm coming from."

For more information on the Pretenders' new album, Relentless, and to see where they're playing on tour, go here.

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